on February 21, 2007
Even though its been over a decade since I first saw this movie, I still love it. Some of the best voice acting and excellent animation allows it to still compete with new shows. And the music! America did a stupendous job with the music, the lyrics fit the movie so well! Another decade down the road, I will still love this movie. Any animation or fantasy fan owe it to themselves to check it out!
The Last Unicorn bears the distinction of being one of the few animated children's films that goes far, far beyond the scope of an animated children's film. Based on the best-selling classic by Peter S. Beagle, the animated adaptation has enthralled audiences of all ages for years. Now, on Blu-Ray, we have the definitive version of this landmark title.
A Unicorn begins to suspect that her kind have disappeared from the world after hearing two hunters speak on the subject. As she ponders the possibility, she is met by a roaming butterfly who sings in riddles and dodges her desperate questions before finally giving her a clue. The Unicorns had "passed down all the roads long ago, and the Red Bull ran close behind them and covered their footprints," leaving no trace as to their whereabouts. Recognizing that her kind are in grave danger, she leaves the safety and security of her forest home to quest for her kin. She is captured by a menacing witch named Mommy Fortuna while sleeping and forced into a cage to delight villagers who pay to see Fortuna's "Creatures of Night, Brought to Light," a traveling carnival where regular animals have been cast with her spells to fool the people into seeing dangerous mythical beasts. The only real creatures in the show are the Unicorn herself, and a dangerous Harpy in an adjacent cage. As Mommy Fortuna finds it increasingly more difficult to keep the Harpy imprisoned, her bumbling assistant Schmendrick concocts a plan to free the Unicorn in the middle of the night using his magical skills which all fall flat. Finally the Unicorn is freed and begins setting loose the other animals wrongfully caged, including the dreaded Harpy. Once free, the Harpy rises into the air and begins a murderous vendetta against everyone in sight, battling the Unicorn several times before focusing her attentions on Mommy Fortuna who proudly declares "You never could have freed yourselves alone! I held you!" The Unicorn and Schmendrick escape, and become partners in her quest. Through previous dialog with Mommy Fortuna, the Unicorn learns that the Red Bull is actually a servant of the evil King Haggard who resides in a castle overlooking the sea. The two are confronted by outlaws in the forest and end up meeting Molly Grue, an old woman who also joins their quest after having waited a lifetime to see a Unicorn. As the trio near Haggard's castle, the Red Bull senses the presence of a Unicorn and attacks in the middle of the night as a ghostly being of pure flame and incredible destructive power. Schmendrick summons all of his magic in a desperate attempt to save the Unicorn, but unwittingly changes her into a young human girl. Now, confronted with the reality of her own mortality, the Unicorn begins to slowly go mad and forget herself, her quest, and her kind. With time running out, Schmendrick, Molly and the Unicorn manage to ingratiate themselves into King Haggard's staff, and quickly learn that the man is hiding a secret he will kill to protect, if necessary.
Though technically a children's film, The Last Unicorn's film adaptation is very heavy on dark themes of tragedy, terror, regret and despair. It is also a tale about love, hope, redemption and beauty. The book was smartly written by a very smart author, giving the film all the material it needs to succeed as a silver screen treatment. Veteran actors such as Mia Farrow, Alan Arkin, Jeff Bridges, Angela Lansbury and the great Christopher Lee all play their parts with a deep-seated conviction, and are all perfectly cast. Their characters are all flawed, and all feel the pain of regret and sorrow in some way. This is not a typical children's film heavy on humor and gags with a happy ending. Perhaps the greatest thing about the Last Unicorn is that it doesn't have a happy ending, but a bittersweet one instead. Even when salvation comes, everyone is changed because of it. To paraphrase Schmendrick in one subtle, but powerful moment..."Men don't always know when they're happy but...I think so." Although the animated film does tend to race through its running time rather quickly, it still manages to evoke a powerful response from the audience with characters who are genuinely lovable, and memorable. Even the evil King Haggard has one scene which explains his nefarious and psychotic behavior, and in that moment he becomes a character driven not by malevolence or sadism, but a simple, basic desire for happiness and comfort that fuels his selfish actions. This is a mature film, and in that respect, good for children who have been shoveled a constant load of kids movies with absolutely no point.
That being said, children under 6 shouldn't watch this film, no matter how appealing the movie may seem to young eyes. The animators have created some very scary characters for the film which all have the potential to plague a young child with horrible nightmares. Mommy Fortuna's twisted, snaggle-toothed visage and gigantic, piercing eyes are enough to cause a stir, but she is nothing compared to the Harpy; a twisted take on the commonly accepted half-human female, half-bird present in Greek mythology, resembling a three-breasted, gnarled old vulture with vicious eyes and a spine-chilling shriek. When the Harpy is set loose by the Unicorn, the terror builds to such palpable levels that it's all way too much for little children to bear. Even the Red Bull is a pretty powerful image for young eyes, though I suspect most kids will find it far more awe-inspiring than truly terrifying.
The Blu-Ray version of the film corrects several major oversights from the 25th Anniversary DVD release. First (and most importantly) there is no censoring of language anymore. The original theatrical track is present, and retains two instances of the word "damn" that were originally present. Visual censors have been removed as well, particularly on the Harpy. For a movie with such powerful thematic and dramatic elements to be censored was a crime in the first place. That being said, the Blu-Ray treatment is gorgeous. The opening scenes retain a lot of dirt, but that quickly clears up within the first few minutes and suddenly comes to life with crisp clarity and warm, saturated colors. In short, the Last Unicorn has never looked this good before. Not by a long shot. The soundtrack has been given a lossless HD 5.1 treatment, and although it won't blow the doors off of your house, it is noticeably better than any previous release so far. Care and attention has been put into this release, and it shows. As for extras, several of them have been recycled from the 25th Anniversary DVD, but the audio commentary track featuring Peter S. Beagle is worth the price of admission alone.
The Last Unicorn is a product of an era long since forgotten, where children's films could be unsettling and dark, and still be beautiful to behold. The film is a 92 minute morality lesson with a strong (if not quirky) visual style and all the classic fantasy literary themes one could ask for. Beware of who you're showing it to, but be proud that you've done so.
on July 13, 2004
This is a very good film that has yet had a decent video release here in the US. This DVD release is a disaster.
This particular print has several major defects. First this movie suffers more than most when cutting it from widescreen to full screen. But the pan-and-scan job (the technique used to make a widescreen film fit on a regular television) was also totally botched leaving many scenes showing only half a face or character.
There is also many color problems. The print is biased to red. Dark scenes, of which there are many, show a red tint. Related to this is that the greens are subdued. Many objects that should be green show as blue.
The print is also grainy showing more video noise than normal.
The soundtrack is extremely harsh sounding making it dificult to listen to.
I'd recommend you seek out the widescreen version which has none of these problems.
on June 9, 2009
I respect Mr. Puzak's opinion very much. He makes a few wonderful points about a fantastic movie that no one should miss. I must, however, contradict his idea that this is not a movie for very young children. There is nothing in this film that will scare a pre-school child any more than the Wicked Queens, and Ursulas of Disney fame. I have watched this movie since I was a child myself, and found no problem with it; and I was always scared of the "pig-tranforming" scene in the movie "Willow". To say that scenes in "The Last Unicorn" will give children nightmares, and have them in tears is a huge disservice to one of the most artistic G-rated films out there. To parents: Yes, if you had a problem with the off-screen death of Bambi's mother, and the Wicked Queen being crushed at the end of Snow White, then I would steer clear of this film; but if no Disney film since the dawn of the company was inappropriate for kids to you, then this film will be just fine.
on July 9, 2004
I have seen this movie over 100 times and I really believe it is one of the greatest films of our time. I loved it as a kid and I don't know that I fully understood it, because now as an adult I appreciate the heart that goes into this film. It is a beautiful love/life story about being true to who you are. I cry almost every time I watch this, it is definetly worth buying.
on June 17, 2004
Hunters traveling through a beautiful forest grow uneasy when one begins to talk of unicorns and magic. Little do they know that one such creature is listening in on their conversation. Upon hearing that she is the last of the unicorns, she grows worried and lonely. When a butterfly flutters into her midst and confirms her fears, she risks her immortality by leaving her home and questing to find others of her species, and to discover the evil that is the mysterious "Red Bull." Along her way she is captured by an evil witch called Mommy Fortuna, who makes the unicorn a part of her traveling magic show. But traveling with the old witch is a good-hearted, would-be wizard named Schmendrick who soon frees her. Together, they continue on the search for the lost unicorns. Joined by Molly Grue, a female member of a group of bandits, the heroes soon find the seaside castle of King Haggard who supposedly controls the Red Bull. After transforming the last unicorn into a beautiful young human girl they call Lady Amalthea in an effort to hide her identity from the Red Bull, the trio attempts to investigate the castle. Within, they discover an old king who is obsessed with finding true happiness by way of possession, and a young prince searching for true love. They take up residence at the castle and begin to learn the secrets of King Haggard, his Red Bull, and the missing unicorns, but Lady Amalthea is quickly forgetting her identity and her mission, and the young prince falls more in love with her each day. If the location of the missing unicorns isn't discovered in time and the Red Bull isn't defeated, Amalthea will be a human forever and unicorns will be gone from the world!
The Last Unicorn is an American animated classic from the early 1980s. It features an all-star cast, haunting music, and animation from the renowned team of Rankin & Bass. The story is an original, emotional, and magical fairytale that speaks to all ages. However, this film is definitely not for everyone. It clearly finds its strongest fan-base among the Tolkien crowd. Fans of the Rankin/Bass Tolkien films will have the best idea of what to expect, though (if memory serves me) the animation is a tad better here. Rankin/Bass is famous for their marvelous Holiday offerings, however, stop-motion animation was always their strongpoint over the traditional style, so one shouldn't expect anything overwhelming as far as that goes. Still, some of the art and color is delightful, and the unicorn herself is quite lovely, especially as the beautiful Lady Amalthea. There are some moments when the story moves better than others, particularly during the first half, as the second half slows down quite a bit. Still, it's a satisfying watch for one who makes the effort to stick with it. The music and songs are dated, but rather haunting for probably that very reason, and the cast is impressive, featuring such stars as Christopher Lee, Angela Lansbury, Mia Farrow, and Jeff Bridges. The DVD is a bit disappointing, being bare bones and a pretty awful transfer, but at least the film IS available on DVD format. Overall, I'd have to say that everyone should watch it at least once to give it a fair try. In general, I prefer Disney to most other forms of animation, but it's always nice to throw something different into the broth and shake things up. The Last Unicorn is a solid piece of animated story-telling, especially compared to a lot of the other fluff that's out there.
on June 14, 2004
The Last Unicorn, released in 1982, was drawn from the novel by Peter S. Beagle. I believe considerable license was taken. This movie I saw as a little boy in the 80's long before DVD when there was only VHS. VHS. What's that some younger kids would say today. At the time, made this movie very life-like and a bit scary, especially the scenes of the Red Bull. This animated movie uses early techniques of Japanese anime as Japanese animators had to do with the making of the film. It's a fantasy epic with an easy to follow plot but a bit slowed down by musical sequences- the Butterfly with the Elton John glasses and even Mia Farrow gets to sing although her singing voice is not going to win a Grammy.
Mia Farrow stars as the voice of the Unicorn. She starts off on a quest to find out what happened to the other unicorns since she has been told she is the last unicorn. On her way, she encounters a witch (played by Angela Landsbury in a performance far from Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast) who showcases her in a traveling circus show. She pairs up with the amateur wizard Schmendrick (Alan Arkin) and aging village woman Molly on a discovery trip further into the magical land. The truth is finally revealed when the hellish Red Bull tries to take the Unicorn away. The unicorn is temporarily transformed into the Princess Amalthea. Prince Lear (Jeff Bridges) falls in love with her, much to the disapproval of his father the old and dismal King Haggard (played superbly by Christopher Lee of the Dracula films and the recent Star Wars: Attack Of The Clones). King Haggard has employed the services of The Red Bull who drove the unicorns into the sea, just to please the old king. I don't think this is motive enough and this is where the story lacked substance for me. What kind of a silly king would want to see unicorns in the sea ? The story has a happy ending and the unicorns are rescued and brought back to land. Read the book first and then see the movie.
on June 14, 2004
I had high hopes for this release; however I should have know that something was amiss by the cover. None of the character was faithfully recreated:
- Schmendrake was not fat and dumpy in the movie. I think they could have come up with better angle to express the size of his nose.
- One of the distinctive traits of the unicorns was that their mane flowed close to their body, no flailing in the breeze
- IMHO the weakest link in the story, their butterfly did not even have his trademark goggles.
Once you open the clamshell case you're greeted with the same cover image on the insert. GASP! The image imprinted on the CD is a mirror image of the cover.
The quality of the recording was mediocre at best. Its dark, the colors are washed out, and all the edge is soft and dirty. I was expecting a lot more since the back cover did expressly say that it was a re-mastered version.
The story itself was untouched. The old witch died her grizzly death and the talons of the anatomically correct harpy. The violent fight scenes were not deleted.
All in all I recommend this for someone who never saw this feature. The packaging is poor but the story itself is timeless.
on May 8, 2004
Let's put it this way, I absolutely loved this movie before I read the book, and I discovered that something very important that was in the book was missing in the movie. In itself, The Last Unicorn was a fantastic movie but it (like all movies) was not precise nor was it true to the book. However, with this particular story, a very important part (in my opinion) was left out in the movie. That part was the curse that the witch had put on King Haggard's land. The curse was a big part of the story, for it said that the sea would rise up and crumble his castle. The sea was, of course, all the unicorns that raced out of the ocean after the Red Bull retreated into it. To some people this may seem of little concern but to me it answered a lot of questions that I would have had if I hadn't read the book. Don't get me wrong, I loved the movie and I still do, it's just the fact that a large part of the book was taken out and should not have been. I'm really looking forward to the reproduction of this tale, and I hope they will include the witch's curse in that one.
on May 4, 2004
I just received my copy of "The Last Unicorn" from Amazon.de. Wow!! I've never seen this piece of animation look so sharp. Or in widescreen! The transfer looks a bit grainy to me, but that in no way detracts from the film. As a matter of fact, it adds to the slightly somber mood of the film. No artifacting, brilliant color and crisp sound all bring this 20-year old feature back to life. Concorde Films has done a wonderful job of bringing this to DVD.
I havn't seen the travesty that is the US version, but I did see the original trailer, which is presented on the German edition. It's dark, grainy, muddy, full of dirt and color changes. The sound is awful. If the entire US presentation is like that, then shame on Carlton for even thinking of presenting it like that. What's the matter, were they to cheap to buy the good copy?
If you have a DVD player capable of playing region 2 PAL DVDs, get the one from Amazon.de, or Amazon.co.uk (which has less "special" features) but is supposed to be just as nice in the presentation. It costs more with shipping, but is worth it.
I'll add this to my collection of German imports (Secret of Nimh, Balto...) which are far, far superior to the US releases.